Giulia Rodighiero bikes to town along what we at Bike Auckland think of as the ‘missing highway’ – from the south into the CBD. In this photo story, she shares the good, bad, and the ugly of her commute…

I recently moved from Mt Albert to Manurewa, which changed my work commute to K’Rd from a relatively quick and safe 7km via the Northwestern cycleway, to a 24km trek through areas with almost no cycle infrastructure. Luckily, it’s easy to take my bike with me on the train to Newmarket, from where I ride to work. (I bring my bike because it’s much quicker, fun and cheaper to bike from Newmarket to work than getting a bus after the train).

However, it’s not as much exercise as I was doing before, in my hilly commute from Mt Albert. So I needed to add some kilometres to keep me fit, and I decided to cycle all the way from Manurewa to K’Rd a few times per week. I chose to do this via Great South Road, because it’s the most direct and fastest route.

Even if the ride is quite long (at least for me!), it’s relatively flat and not as tiring as I thought it would be. It definitely needs some improvements from the safety point of view, although there are already some good sections. My ride actually starts really well: from my residential street, I turn into Browns Road, which has a painted cycle lane in both directions. The cycle lane continues into Great South Road where almost immediately it becomes a wide shared path.

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Unfortunately the path surface is not very smooth, and most of the other cyclists I meet prefer staying on the road. It’s the only separated cycle lane of my ride until Carlton Gore Road in Newmarket: I use it and try not to be too fussed about the surface or about all the zig-zagging they make you do at the intersections.

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The shared path turns back into a painted on-road cycle lane after Manukau Station Rd, and it pretty much continues until just before the Papatoetoe shops at Hunters Corner.

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There wasn’t much traffic on the day I took this picture, but when there is (and there usually is), it’s a bit of a challenge to claim my space between the parked cars, cars queuing at the traffic lights and trees planted along the way. At the end of the shops comes the first really stressful spot of the ride: the intersection with Shirley Road, where I am supposed to merge with the cars entering the road (at speed) from my left. I generally prefer avoiding this by using the pedestrian crossing instead.

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Immediately after this intersection, a bus lane appears until the intersection with Baird Rd, where there’s the first of a series of really short sections of painted cycle lanes, which appear and disappear. I’m not sure whether to take them as a joke or good intention. From here onward, I have to start deciding whether to take a risk and ride on the road, or whether to use the footpath. It really depends on the traffic of the day.

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As I approach and travel through the shops at Otahuhu, the footpath is not an option anymore – but at least the cars now have to slow down, so riding on the road is not too bad.

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After Otahuhu shops the worst part of the ride begins: a very industrial area with heavy traffic, both cars and trucks. Luckily there is quite a nice and wide footpath for most of it, which I unashamedly use…

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There’s a ‘fun’ bit on Westfield bridge where suddenly the footpath becomes officially a shared path…

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…only to disappear all of a sudden after maybe 200m or so…

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…taking away with it also the actual footpath, for two or three hundred meters! What do you do if you’re trying to walk along here??

GiuliaGreatSouthRoad12I’m always a bit relieved when I see Penrose Station because I know that the worst is over. I stay on the footpath until after the big intersection with Station Road. After that, I feel safe again on the road, mainly because the cars appear to drive slower. I’m not sure if maybe the speed limit changes back to 50km/h here, or if it was 50km/h all along.

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From Greenlane it’s again a relatively safe ride thanks to the bus lane, which re-appears from the intersection with Campbell Rd and pretty much continues all the way. A couple of times, because of the cars stuck in the queue, I felt like I had to get out of the way onto the footpath to let the bus pass me, but generally I never have problems.

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I finally leave Great South Road and turn into Maranui Ave (not always an easy task), where I ride on the overbridge to get to Dilworth Avenue and Remuera Rd.

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From Newmarket Station, it’s the same route that I travel when I bring my bike in on the train, and that I’m sure many readers are familiar with: Broadway, Carlton Gore Road, Park Rd, across Grafton Bridge and finally onto K’Rd! It’s always very satisfying arriving at work and jumping into a well deserved hot shower. Some part of me is also relieved that I managed to arrive safe and sound once again. I know that improvements to the cycle infrastructure of South Auckland are still very far away… but I’m already dreaming of a day when you’ll be able to cycle all the way from the southern suburbs to the city via a safe, uninterrupted, separated cycle lane.

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— Giulia Rodighiero

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8 responses to “The great northward commute on Great South Road

  1. I’m curious to know why you turn off at Maranui Rd to use the overbridge. I usually continue down to the intersection at Broadway/Great South Rd/Manukau Rd and cross at the lights to head towards Newmarket on Broadway.

    1. Yes, I do that sometimes, but I find it a bit difficult to move into the right lane and I always end up missing the green light and wasting time. It feels quicker to turn into Maranui Rd. I also don’t particularly enjoy riding on Broadway and I try to be on it as little as possible…

  2. I cycled from Greenlane to Otara for many years, using a variety of routes. I eventually found a way to avoid GSR almost completely as I found stretches of it just too unpleasant. The three worst bits were from the estuary bridge to Mangere Rd, Portage Rd to Vestey Drive, and Penrose Station Rd to Ellerslie-Panmure Highway. The motorway and rail corridors provide obvious opportunities for a desperately needed southern cycleway but the likelihood of anything happening in the foreseeable future seems extremely slim sadly.

  3. I ride GSR between Church St and Otahuhu most days but I am mostly going against the traffic. The traffic is bad and there are some bad pinch points. But the real hassle is all the debris on the roads – glass, rocks, bits of metal and so forth. Its so easy to get a puncture or cut the sidewall on a tire.

  4. Is there a back route between Browns Road and Druces Road? From the back of the empty plot next to 43 Browns Road there appears to be a path through. Not exactly commuter friendly right now, but it could be part of a low traffic/traffic free route from Manurewa to Manukau via Kerrs Rd and Inverell Ave.

    I noticed that Weymouth peninsula has an ample bidirectional cycleway, with almost Dutch-style tunnels taking the path on under the roundabout and onto Weymouth Road. Despite elderly surfaces and some sketchy bits losing priority to side roads on the way to Manurewa, it’s light years ahead of much of Auckland.

    Much amused to see that even when it was set back 3m from a road with no parking restrictions, more than one car was parked in the cycleway!

    1. yes they constantly park on that off road cycle way and nothing is done about it so it has become acceptable despite there being ample on road parking. There is a route by 43 browns road but it is overgrown narrow but at minimal cost could be converted into a useful safe route.

  5. I do the Manurewa to Quay street in the Morning and back to Manurewa in the afternoon on a regular basis for work. I have found using dominion road to SH20 then to Onehunga and back to Manurewa is a lot safer than Great South Road. But my favorite way is via Kepa road to Orakei train station across the bridge to Meadowbank then to st johns through the stone fields to Pamure via the bypass, through the back of Sylvia park, followed by carbine road to Otahuhu. From Carbine there if you use the back roads to meadow street there is a narrow little pedestrian bridge that takes you to church street (which is much quieter than great south road and is quite usable in both directions) that will get you easily through Otahuhu to Cracroft street which just leaves you with that horrible bridge to cross before you hit the on road painted cycle way. I usually turn onto Shirley road and use many of the back roads from there.

  6. I, and a few of my colleagues, cycle to Middlemore Hospital from suburbs such as One Tree Hill, Greenlane and Remuera. Most of us use Great South Road (GSR) in the morning, as it is the most direct route and traffic going South in the morning is relatively light. There are still times when there is not much room left when both lanes have vehicles in them, but I find that because it usually is not too much delay to go around you, drivers are courteous and wait until they can pass with comfortable clearance.

    It is a different story in the afternoon. Traffic is heavier, and with both lanes full there is no room for inside lane drivers to leave you space. I generally ride on the footpath through Westfield and Southdown, and then use side streets such as Industry Road, Hugo Johnson/O’Rorke Roads and Rockfield Road. Unless in a hurry to get home, many of us avoid GSR and go through Mangere, crossing the old Mangere Bridge. This has its own challenges – the section of Walmsley Road from Robertson Road to Mahunga Drive in particular. Once across the Harbour, I ride the cycleway from Onehunga to Southdown. This is actually quite enjoyable, but it all makes for a very roundabout northwards commute home with a lot of due west or due east travel (18km home via old Mangere Bridge and cycleway, compared to 10km to work via GSR).

    I have my own personal (yes – somewhat self-serving) wish list:
    1. A cycle way on the eastern shore of the Manukau harbour roughly along the tracks from Southdown to Otahuhu, and then ideally around the south shore of the harbour to the bridges. This would give a safe off Road North-South commuter cycle route to Otahuhu, and also complete a recreational ring route around the harbour. I have no idea how feasible this is, in terms of waterfront property ownership etc.
    2. If not an alternative route such as above, then more extensive cycle lanes on GSR. And designed so cyclists will use them. There is a marked cycle lane on the bridge over the railway at Penrose. However, it abruptly stops at the end of the bridge – if on a mountain bike, you can check for clear road over your should and jump down the kerb back onto the road, but on a road bike it means going around the corner, losing momentum…you end up just riding on the road.
    3. And if that also proves too difficult – I often wonder when riding along multilane roads such as GSR – what if the lanes were marked so the the inside lane was slighty wider and the right hand lane was slightly narrower. Then at least there is a bit more room for cars to pass cyclists without feeling like they are crossing into the other lane.
    5. Saleyards Road from Station Road to Kaka St is often narrow due to the right lane being completely full of cars waiting for the lights. I’m not sure if cycle lanes are part of the station upgrade, but there seems to bee enough room to extend the short Southbound cycle lane at the Kaka St intersection back to Station Road.
    6. Agree with the comment below about debris. Broken glass often ends up in the space you ride on. More frequent road sweeping.

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